Steve learns quickly not to Google himself.
It is something Tony heckles him about after New York, upon seeing the man flipping through his smart phone, but by then Steve already knows better. The Internet is an amazing tool, both for catching up on all he’s missed while on ice and for witnessing how the world has come to view him in the decades he’s been gone. He’d read newspaper articles about himself back in the day, listened to radio broadcasts and film reels, flipped through the comic books, but there is so much more out there now and seeing the impact he’s left in the twenty-first century is astounding.
There are documentaries, critical essays on his use in wartime propaganda, philosophical papers comparing and contrasting him with Nietzsche’s Übermensch, historical re-enactors for veteran charities, political cartoons, even cookbooks containing recipes for foods he enjoys.
It’s a dozen or so pages into the search results when he happens upon a community of…historical enthusiasts, so to speak. Enthusiasts being an understatement. These are people creating art of Captain America, writing stories about him – some relating to actual events and some not – pouring over his letters, his drawings, and footage that has been preserved, and surmising things about his personality based on those effects. Some stories Steve doesn’t open, the ones that, judging by their summaries, detail amorous fictional encounters of his, usually with Peggy, Bucky, or the other Howling Commandos.
He opens what’s titled a “Shipping Manifesto for Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes,” and realizes a paragraph in that the text has nothing to do with any sort of shipping he’s ever heard of. After Google informs him of an alternate meaning for “shipping,” Steve decides it would be best to stop reading about himself online.
Still, he wouldn’t have expected any trauma to arise from looking at the Captain America IMDB character page.
He’s been the subject of multiple film and television drama adaptations since his disappearance, the most famous being from the seventies and starring Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. He has no clue who either of those people are, but the SHIELD agent who recommends the film assures Steve that they’re the best.
He scans the rest of the movies listed, pausing at the title of one. The Skull’s Super Joy Division.
An Italian film, judging from its alternate title. Steve stares. Joy division. Something has to be lost in translation here. There’s no way someone made a film about the Red Skull forming a stalag brothel. No one would be that sick.
Clicking the title to bring up the film’s page is a decision he’s sure to regret, but he can’t keep himself from doing so.
“HYDRA’s dreaded Super Soldier Project, headed by the evil Frauline Skull,” the IMDB summary begins, “seeks to breed the perfect soldier by offering up the most enduring female prisoners to sadistic German officers. The mission changes when Captain America and Bucky Barnes are taken captive, and the Skull realizes the Captain’s ejaculate holds the key to—”
The summary continues below that, but he opts to drop the phone and rush to the bathroom to quietly vomit rather than continue reading. Splashing his face with cold water, Steve shakes his head.
Someone’s made pornography about the horrors Zola and his ilk inflicted on their prisoners. Steve isn’t naïve—behind the times, but not naïve—and he knows in the forties there were Captain America Tijuana bibles circulating, there were Howling Commandos burlesque shows, but this is different. He thinks of Bucky strapped to a table away from the other POWs, dazed, agonized, thinks of the tortures that kept his best friend awake at night, the nightmares Bucky had never had a chance to overcome before he’d fallen to his death.
And someone—or rather, an entire film crew—has fetishized that.
He approaches the phone again cautiously, as if it’s a snake that might strike.
He’s all but praying for this to be a misunderstanding, for some cultural context he’s missing to make this any less horrific.
“Nazisploitation” is listed as a plot keyword, and against his better judgment Steve decides to Google it.
“Nazi exploitation (also Nazisploitation),” begins the Wikipedia summary, “is a subgenre of exploitation film and sexploitation film that involves villainous Nazis committing criminal acts of a sexual nature, often as camp or prison overseers in World War II settings.”
Steve’s fingers clench and the case around the phone snaps.
Later he will realize that romanticizing atrocities isn’t a new development. He’ll think of dime novels about being ravished by pirates or caught behind enemy lines, think of pulp magazines that gleefully described gory horror and torture. But for now, he throws the phone against the wall with enough force to crack both, and leaves the room, heading out to destroy every punching bag SHIELD has on hand.